The Tupolev Tu-22 (NATO reporting name: Blinder) was the first supersonic bomber to enter production in the Soviet Union. Manufactured by Tupolev, the Tu-22 entered service with the Soviet military in the 1960s. The last examples were retired during the 1990s. Produced in comparatively small numbers, the aircraft was a disappointment, lacking the intercontinental range that had been expected. Later in their service life, Tu-22s were used as launch platforms for the Soviet AS-4 stand-off missile, and as reconnaissance aircraft. Tu-22s were sold to other nations, including Libya and Iraq. The Tu-22 was one of the few Soviet bombers to see combat; with Libyan Tu-22s under the command of Muammar Gaddafi being used against Tanzania and Chad; and Iraq under Saddam Hussein used its Tu-22s during the Iran-Iraq War.
The Tu-22 was intended originally as a supersonic replacement for the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber. Preliminary design of an aircraft to meet this requirement, designated Samolët 105 by Tupolev, was started in 1954, with the first prototype completed in December 1957, and making its maiden flight from Zhukovsky on 21 June 1958, flown by test pilot Yuri Alasheev. The availability of more powerful engines, and the TsAGI discovery of the Area rule for minimizing transonic drag, resulted in the construction of a revised prototype, the 105A. This first flew on 7 September 1959.
The first serial-production Tu-22B bomber, built by Factory No. 22 at Kazan, flew on 22 September 1960, and the type was presented to the public in the Tushino Aviation Day parade on 9 July 1961, with a flypast of 10 aircraft. It initially received the NATO reporting name 'Bullshot', which was deemed to be inappropriate, then 'Beauty', which was deemed to be too complimentary, and finally the 'Blinder'. Soviet crews called it "shilo" (awl) because of its shape.
The Tu-22 entered service in 1962, but it experienced considerable problems, resulting in widespread unserviceability and several crashes. Amongst its many faults was a tendency for skin heating at supersonic speed, distorting the control rods and causing poor handling. The landing speed was 100 km/h (62 mph) greater than previous bombers and the Tu-22 had a tendency to pitch up and strike its tail on landing, though this problem was eventually resolved with the addition of electronic stabilization aids. Even after some of its problems had been resolved, the 'Blinder' was never easy to fly, and it was maintenance-intensive. Among its unpleasant characteristics was a wing design that allowed rudder reversal at high deflections. When the stick had been neutralized following such an event, the deformation of the wing did not necessarily disappear but could persist and result in an almost uncontrollable aircraft.
Pilots for the first Tu-22 squadrons were selected from the ranks of "First Class" Tu-16 pilots, which made transition into the new aircraft difficult, as the Tu-16 had a co-pilot, and many of the "elite" Tu-16 pilots selected had become accustomed to allowing their co-pilots to handle all the flight operations of the Tu-16 except for take-off and landings. As a consequence, Tu-16 pilots transitioning to the single-pilot Tu-22 suddenly found themselves having to perform all the piloting tasks, and in a much more complicated cockpit. Many, if not most of these pilots were unable to complete their training for this reason. Eventually, pilots were selected from the ranks of the Su-17 "Fitter" crews, and these pilots made the transition with less difficulty.
By the time that the Tu-22B (Blinder-A) entered service, it was already obvious that its operational usefulness was limited. Despite its speed, it was inferior to the Tu-16 with respect to combat radius, weapon load, and serviceability. Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev believed that ballistic missiles were the way of the future, and bombers like the Tu-22 were in danger of cancellation. As a result, only 15 (some sources say 20) Tu-22Bs were built.
A combat-capable reconnaissance version, the Tu-22R ('Blinder-C'), was developed along with the bomber, entering service in 1962. The Tu-22R could be fitted with an aerial refueling probe that was subsequently fitted to most Tu-22s, expanding their radius of operation. 127 Tu-22Rs were built, 62 of which went to the AVMF for maritime reconnaissance use. Some of these aircraft were stripped of their camera and sensor packs and sold for export as Tu-22Bs, although in other respects they apparently remained more comparable to the Tu-22R than to the early-production Tu-22Bs.
A trainer version of the 'Blinder,' the Tu-22U ('Blinder-D'), was fielded at the same time; it had a raised cockpit for an instructor pilot. The Tu-22U had no tail guns, and was not combat-capable. Forty six were produced.
To try to salvage some offensive combat role for the Tu-22 in the face of official hostility, the Tu-22 was developed as a missile carrier, the Tu-22K ('Blinder-B'), with the ability to carry a single Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') stand-off missile in a modified weapons bay. The Tu-22K was deployed both by DA (Strategic Aviation), and AVMF (Naval Aviation).
The last Tu-22 subtype was the Tu-22P ('Blinder-E') electronic warfare version, initially used for ELINT electronic intelligence gathering. Some were converted to serve as stand-off ECM jammers to support Tu-22K missile carriers. One squadron was usually allocated to each Tu-22 regiment.
The Tu-22 was upgraded in service with more powerful engines, in-flight refueling (for those aircraft that did not initially have it), and better electronics. The -D suffix (for Dalni, long-range) denotes aircraft fitted for aerial refueling.
Tu-22s were exported to Iraq and Libya during the 1970s. An Egyptian request was refused as a result of Soviet objections to the Yom Kippur War.
The Tu-22 has a low-middle mounted wing swept at an angle of 55°. The two large turbojet engines, originally 159 kN (35,273 lbf) Dobrinin VD-7M, later 162 kN (36,375 lbf) Kolesov RD-7M2, are mounted atop the rear fuselage on either side of the large vertical fin, with a low mounted tailplane. Continuing a Tupolev OKB design feature, the main landing gear are mounted in pods at the trailing edge of each wing. The very swept wings gave little drag at transonic speeds, but resulted in very fast landing speeds and a long take-off run.
The Tu-22's cockpit placed the pilot forward, offset slightly to the left, with the weapons officer behind and the navigator below, within the fuselage, sitting on downwards-firing ejector seats. The cockpit design had poor visibility (doing nothing for the Tu-22's poor runway performance), uncomfortable seats, and poor locations for instruments and switches.
The Tu-22's defensive armament, operated by the weapons officer, consisted of a tail turret beneath the engine pods, containing a single 23mm R-23 gun. The turret was directed by a small PRS-3A 'Argon' gun-laying radar to compensate for the weapons officer's lack of rear visibility. The bomber's main weapon load was carried in a fuselage bomb bay between the wings, capable of carrying up to 24 FAB-500 general-purpose bombs, one FAB-9000 bomb, or various free-fall nuclear weapons. On the Tu-22K, the bay was reconfigured to carry one Raduga Kh-22 (AS-4 'Kitchen') missile semi-recessed beneath the fuselage. The enormous weapon was big enough to have a substantial effect on handling and performance, and was also a safety hazard.
The early Tu-22B had an optical bombing system (which was retained by the Tu-22R), with a Rubin-1A nav/attack radar. The Tu-22K had the Leninets PN (NATO reporting name 'Down Beat') to guide the Kh-22 missile. The Tu-22R could carry a camera array or an APP-22 jammer pack in the bomb bay as an alternative to bombs. Some Tu-22Rs were fitted with the Kub ELINT system, and later with an under-fuselage palette for M-202 Shompol side looking airborne radar, as well as cameras and an infrared line-scanner. A small number of Tu-22Ks were modified to Tu-22KP or Tu-22KPD configuration with Kurs-N equipment to detect enemy radar systems and give compatibility with the Kh-22P anti-radiation missile.